EPL

Premier League data dive: Van Dijk goes 60 not out at Anfield, James leads the way for Chelsea

By Sports Desk March 05, 2022

Liverpool closed the gap on leaders Manchester City with victory over West Ham, while Chelsea tightened their grip on third place in Saturday's Premier League action.

The Blues saw off Burnley 4-0 at Turf Moor, a scoreline that was matched by Aston Villa in their statement victory against Southampton.

Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and Brentford also picked up wins, but it was a bad start to life under new management for Leeds in their early kick-off against Leicester City.

Following another eventful day of Premier League action, Stats Perform delves into the key Opta facts from each of the games.

Leeds United 0-1 Leicester City: New manager, same Leeds

Jesse Marsch's first game as Leeds boss ended in defeat to Leicester as United fell to a fifth successive league loss for the first time since April 2015, when they were in the Championship.

Leeds have failed to score in three straight league matches for the first time in a year, this despite registering 19 shots in their latest blank against Leicester.

United's expected goals (xG) return of 1.95 is their highest without scoring in a league game since June 2020, and the familiar failings were also on show at the other end.

Harvey Barnes' second-half winner means Leeds have gone 13 league games without a clean sheet, their longest-such run since 14 without a shutout ending in August 2016.

This was the fifth straight league game Barnes has scored against Leeds – four of those while playing for Leicester and one for West Brom, making them his favourite opponent.

 

Aston Villa 4-0 Southampton: Coutinho's home comforts

Villa are firmly back on track after registering back-to-back victories under Steven Gerrard for the first time since his opening two games in charge in November.

The Villans put four unanswered goals past Southampton at Villa Park for their biggest Premier League win since thrashing Liverpool 7-2 in October 2020.

Barcelona loanee Philippe Coutinho once again played a big part in the victory by scoring one and assisting another for Douglas Luiz.

Coutinho has now been directly involved in six goals in his first four home league games for Villa, scoring three of his own and setting up as many.

Ollie Watkins had earlier opened the scoring with his 21st Premier League strike since the start of the 2020-21 season, while Danny Ings added to his two assists with Villa's fourth goal.

 

Newcastle United 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Fraser helps end Magpies' duck against Seagulls

For a while things looked incredibly bleak for Newcastle, even after their big-money takeover, but they now find themselves seven points above the relegation zone.

The Magpies held off Brighton to make it eight Premier League games without defeat – no team is on a better such run – with five of those matches ending in victory.

Ryan Fraser opened the scoring to make it two goals in five Premier League outings, matching his tally from his previous 70 appearances, before setting up Fabian Schar.

That was the earliest United have scored twice in a Premier League home game since January 2007 and, despite Lewis Dunk's header, Eddie Howe's side saw out the win.

It marks the first time Newcastle have defeated Brighton in the Premier League in their 10th such encounter, having previously failed to so much as score against them at home.

 

Norwich City 1-3 Brentford: Bees buzzing thanks to Toney treble

After a run of eight Premier League games without a win, Brentford bolstered their survival ambitions with a well-earned victory away at bottom side Norwich.

Ivan Toney was the hero for the Bees with three goals, two of those from the penalty spot, making Brentford the 40th different team to boast a hat-trick scorer.

The Brentford striker now has nine Premier League goals for the season, each of those coming via his right foot.

Teemu Pukki scored a consolation but it was another miserable day for Norwich, whose goal difference of -42 is the worst at this stage since Derby County in 2007-08 (-44).

Not that it will matter a great deal in the grand scheme of things, but Brentford are the first team Pukki has scored home and away against in a single Premier League season.

 

Wolves 0-2 Crystal Palace: Shaky Wanderers lose again

Wolves' European hopes suffered another blow as they fell to a third successive Premier League defeat, as many as they lost in their previous 13.

Bruno Lage's out-of-form side have now conceded six goals in their last four league games, after shipping just five in 12 before that.

Jean-Philippe Mateta came up with the breakthrough from close range for his fourth goal in eight Premier League starts, and Wilfried Zaha doubled Palace's lead from the penalty spot.

Ivory Coast international Zaha has now been directly involved in 83 goals in the competition, the joint-ninth best total for an African player, level with Nwankwo Kanu.

With this latest loss, it is the first time Wolves have lost three games in a row against Palace in their entire league history.

 

Burnley 0-4 Chelsea: Blues cruise at Turf Moor

It was business as usual for Chelsea as they won for a third Premier League game running without conceding in what proved to be a straightforward victory at lowly Burnley.

The Blues scored all four of their goals in the second half as they enjoyed their biggest away league win since October 2018 when also beating Burnley by the same scoreline.

This was the biggest margin of victory for an away side in a game that was goalless at half-time since Tottenham beat Aston Villa 4-0 in December 2012.

Reece James started the scoring and in the process became the first defender from Europe's top five leagues to both score and assist five goals this term in all competitions.

Kai Havertz also netted twice before Christian Pulisic added some gloss to the scoreline – his fourth goal at Turf Moor, matching a record for an away player set by Tottenham's Harry Kane.

 

Liverpool 1-0 West Ham: Reds roll on thanks to Mane

Sadio Mane's first-half goal made it seven wins in a row for Liverpool in the Premier League, their best such streak since a run of 18 when they claimed the title two years ago.

That close-range finish was Mane's 12th of the season in the league, nine of those coming at Anfield – no player has scored more home goals in the division this season.

Trent Alexander-Arnold played the ball into the box for Mane's goal for his 16th assist in all competitions this term, more than he has ever registered in a single campaign.

Liverpool were not at their best and that was particularly true of Mohamed Salah, who failed to score from six shots – only against Stoke in April 2018 (seven) has he fared worse.

Incredibly, Virgil van Dijk has never been on the losing side for Liverpool in 60 Premier League home games at Anfield, setting a new record in that regard.

 

Related items

  • Argentina 2-0 Canada: Alvarez and Martinez get Copa America holders off to winning start Argentina 2-0 Canada: Alvarez and Martinez get Copa America holders off to winning start

    Copa America holders Argentina made a winning start at the 2024 tournament as Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez scored in a 2-0 win over Canada.

    The 2022 World Cup winners did not have things all their own way against Jesse Marsch's competition debutants, who missed a couple of glaring chances through Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David.

    But on the day he became the Copa's outright leading appearance-maker, Lionel Messi was the catalyst for both goals, splitting the Canada defence in the build-up to Alvarez's opener then assisting Martinez's late clincher.

    The Inter Miami star missed two great chances to get on the scoresheet himself, but it was of no consequence as Lionel Scaloni's men started with three points.

    They take on Chile, who beat them in the 2015 and 2016 finals, in their second match on Tuesday, while Canada will look to bounce back versus Peru.

     

    Canada refused to sit in and their approach left them open at the back early on. Leandro Paredes curled a 25-yard effort narrowly over the top, then Alvarez saw his shot smothered by Maxime Crepeau after a lightning break took him clean through on goal.

    Despite Argentina dominating possession, Canada should have gone ahead on the stroke of half-time, Emiliano Martinez making a reflex save to deny Stephen Eustaquio before Davies miscued on the follow-up. 

    They were made to regret that miss four minutes into the second half. Messi's pinpoint throughball found Alexis Mac Allister, and though the midfielder was wiped out by Crepeau, Alvarez was on hand to convert into an empty net.

    Messi should have made it 2-0 after 65 minutes, but he saw an angled drive parried by Crepeau before Derek Cornelius made a fine block to deny him on the rebound. 

    Canada continued to offer a threat at the other end, though, with David heading over after being found totally unmarked by Jacob Shaffelburg's cross.

    Messi missed another chance when his dinked attempt rolled agonisingly wide, but he did manage an assist as Argentina made the result safe two minutes from time.

    His delicate pass sent Martinez clear, and the substitute slotted a composed finish between the legs of Crepeau.

    Assist for Messi on landmark appearance

    Messi made a piece of Copa America history on Thursday, his 35th appearance in CONMEBOL's flagship tournament pulling him clear of Chile great Sergio Livingstone for the most games played at the competition outright.

    The eight-time Ballon d'Or winner failed to mark the occasion with a goal, misfiring from a game-high six shots worth 0.69 expected goals (xG).

    However, he did cap his outing with an assist for Martinez's late second, taking him to 30 goal involvements at the tournament overall (13 goals, 17 assists).

    Messi still has plenty of gears to go through, and that should strike fear into Argentina's upcoming opponents. 

    Encouragement for Canada, but no points

    Canada became the 20th different nation to participate in the Copa America, and the eighth different CONCACAF team after Costa Rica, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama and the United States.

    As was the case at the 2022 World Cup, they played some high-octane football but were not rewarded with a positive result.

    At half-time, Marsch's team had matched Argentina's tally of seven shots, the most any team have attempted in a first half against the Albiceleste since Uruguay managed eight in November 2021. Their 0.73 xG, meanwhile, topped the world champions' 0.56 at that stage. 

    Alvarez's opener came as a dagger blow and they were unable to sustain their high-intensity approach for the full 90 minutes, but there were positives to take.

    Ahead of Thursday's opener, the Opta supercomputer gave Canada just a 27 per cent chance of escaping Group A. While the result will have done nothing to boost those hopes, their display should offer encouragement ahead of meetings with Peru and Chile.

  • Southgate's flawed thinking puts England's Euro 2024 progress on ice Southgate's flawed thinking puts England's Euro 2024 progress on ice

    England have a track record of not being at their best in the second matches of major tournaments.

    At Euro 2020, Scotland held out for a goalless draw at Wembley. At the 2022 World Cup, it was the United States who frustrated the Three Lions in a 1-1 draw.

    In Frankfurt on Thursday, at Euro 2024, it was Denmark's turn. Harry Kane's opener was cancelled out by Morten Hjolmund's long-range stunner.

    Yet this was an England performance that has been long in the making, and their manager Gareth Southgate must shoulder plenty of the blame.

    England headed into Euro 2024 as one of the favourites, but on the evidence of their first two matches, then barring flashes, that tag is definitely not befitting.

    In the end, England could arguably be considered as being fortunate to come away with a point. The Danes accumulated 0.58 expected goals to the Three Lions' 0.36 in the second half, and looked the more likely to score even if they didn't truly test Jordan Pickford.

    England did take the draw, which sees them stay top of Group C, albeit they missed the chance to secure passage into the last 16 as group winners.

    With four points, they should progress, but there is no guarantee on which of the top three places they will take, and Southgate has plenty of food for thought.

    But under Southgate, England have now failed to win 13 games in which they led at some stage, losing five of those.

    What can he do to change track?

     

    TAA in midfield should come to an end

    The Trent Alexander-Arnold experiment must stop. He is not a midfielder.

    This is a prime example of Southgate's flawed thinking. Alexander-Arnold is a world-class player, but he is a full-back who needs the freedom to drift infield - he is not a midfielder. Indeed, at times during his 54 minutes on the pitch, he resembled a spare part.

    That being said, Southgate will likely point to the numbers: Alexander-Arnold created three chances, a team-high, played five line-breaking passes and registered an 87.5 per cent passing accuracy, while also attempting two crosses.

    But there is a severe lack of balance in that area of the field, and it is skewing the entirety of England's system.

    Southgate's attempt to address that was by bringing on Conor Gallagher, who is a busy box-to-box presence, but does not solve the issue of balance. Jude Bellingham drops deep to get on the ball, but with Phil Foden stationed out wide, there is nobody dropping into the '10 spot' with regularity.

    Get Kane involved

    A move away from 4-2-3-1, which has seemingly been introduced to get the best out of Bellingham as a number 10, might in turn benefit Kane.

    The Bayern Munich star, fresh from scoring 44 goals for the Bundesliga giants, showed his clinical edge with the only chance he got, but that was the sole touch he managed in Denmark's box.

    His tally of 22 touches was two fewer than England's captain managed against Serbia (24), and he found himself hauled off in a bizarre triple change around the 70th minute.

    Southgate threw on Ollie Watkins as Kane's replacement, but why not try the two together? 

    Kane's opener was his fifth goal at the Euros, making him the first England player and eighth player overall to score five or more goals at both the men's World Cup and the European Championship. How can you take such a threat off with the match poised at 1-1?

    Jarrod Bowen and Eberechi Eze were the other substitutes handed a chance - they hardly struck fear into Denmark's defence. Anthony Gordon, a winger truly capable of stretching the opposition and offering England a threat down the left, was left on the bench, as was Cole Palmer, the Premier League's Young Player of the Season. Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford didn't make the squad, of course.

    Bowen and Eze contributed just 22 touches between them; neither of the duo created a chance, nor had a shot.

    Food for thought on Foden

    If Foden is going to start for England, then it has to be in a central role.

    His best work is done in the middle of the pitch, which is increasingly crowded, and, with Kieran Trippier playing left-back, Foden is too often isolated if he tries to operate out on the flank. As it is, Foden is operating in a halfway house, and not fulfilling either role particularly well.

     

    But the 24-year-old was England's most effective attacker on Thursday. He had the most shots (four), and was desperately unlucky to strike the post with one of them, which came after he drifted over into a more central position.

    Too often, though, he was out wide with little support. He did not have a single touch in the attacking third in the width of the six-yard box, and while Denmark did an admirable job defensively, there is so much more to come.

    Foden has to improve, yet this system and tactics are simply coming nowhere near close to getting the best out of him.

    And that is one of several problems Southgate, who has done so much good work during his tenure, must solve. As it stands, he does not look like the manager best suited to coaching this squad of superstars.

  • Kane calls for calm but accepts England not good enough Kane calls for calm but accepts England not good enough

    Harry Kane called for some perspective following England's 1-1 Euro 2024 draw against Denmark but accepts his side were not good enough.

    England failed to build on a 1-0 win over Serbia in their Group C opener as they saw Kane's opener cancelled out by Morten Hjulmand in Thursday's match in Frankfurt.

    Gareth Southgate's side once again failed to push on after taking the lead in a game and supporters made their frustrations known.

    The draw means England have still yet to ever win their first two matches at a European Championship, with their place in the last 16 not yet certain.

    And Kane - the third man to score at four different major tournaments for England along with Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney - admits an improvement is needed.

    "We're struggling with and without the ball," he told BBC Sport. "The pressing in both games hasn't been quite right, and with the ball we haven't been good enough – that's from top to bottom, from me to Picks (Jordan Pickford). 

    "It was tough out there with the heat and the pitch. It wasn't our greatest game but we got away with a draw.

    "There's no easy games at major tournaments and I think that's being shown. There are levels we can reach, with and without the ball, but it’s a sign of a good team that you can get results when you’re not playing well."

    England sit top of Group C with four points from two matches and will guarantee a place in the knockouts with a draw against Slovenia on Tuesday, while a win sees them through in top spot.

    "We're top of the group and we've all but qualified," added Kane, who was substituted with 20 minutes to go. "I know there’ll be loads of noise and a bit of disappointment at home, but we experienced this when we drew with Scotland in the last Euros. 

     

    "It's a time to stay calm, reflect and try to improve. Step by step, we'll get there."

    Kane's opener was his fifth goal at the Euros, making him the first England player and the eighth from any country to score five or more in both this competition and the World Cup.

    However, Hjulmand levelled 16 minutes later with a shot from 30 yards - his first goal for Denmark in all competitions on what was his ninth appearance - and England could not find a response of their own.

    Southgate's side dropped deep after going in front, as they did against Serbia and have done in recent tournaments, and Kane believes that is an area that needs working on.

    "It’s not just when we score that [we drop deep]," he said. "It's something we need to get better at. When the teams drop a few players deeper, we're not sure how who's supposed to be pressing. 

    "In the second half we tried to change it a bit with me and Jude [Bellingham] playing in front of their two midfielders and then trying to get up. But it was difficult. Credit to Denmark, they’re a really good side and they carried a threat."

    England have now won just two of their past eight competition meetings with Denmark, and this most recent result means they are unable to rest up against Slovenia.

    Reflecting on the disappointing performance, Southgate told BBC Sport: "The performance was not what we would have hoped. At the moment we're not using the ball well enough, and if you do that you'll suffer as we have at times tonight. There's another level we have to find.

    "There's a huge amount of work to do - that's evident. We have to stay tight. We understand people will be disappointed with the performances, and rightly so. We've got make them better."

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